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Opposition in Italy

  • Alessandro Pizzorno

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IN ROBERT DAHL'S ACCOUNT OF THE SUBJECT ‘OPPOSITION’ IS SEEN AS a political actor, opposing the government in parliament, having goals and strategies, being cohesive or not, well identifiable or not, aggressive or less aggressive in its action, and so on. As it is a ‘theory of action’, applying it would necessarily require (as Jean Blondel also shows in his essay) determining the ‘goals’ of the opposition. One would then be able to predict what a certain opposition would probably be doing, and explain why one type of opposition must be classified as different from another. I maintain, however, that the concept of ‘the goals of a political actor’ is a very elusive, and at the very least, an oversimplified concept. Indeed, it is impossible to match it with the facts and operationalize it. The analysis of the Italian case during the First Republic shows this clearly.

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1 Dahl himself is aware of that: ‘the solution I have chosen is a deliberate oversimplification’, Dahl, Robert A., Political Oppositions in Western Democracies, New Haven, Conn., Yale University Press, 1966, p. 341.

2 cf. Sartori, , ‘European Parties: The Case of Polarized Pluralism’, in La Palombara, P.G. and Weiner, M. (eds.), Political Parties and Political Development, Princeton, NJ, Princeton University Press, 1966; and ‘I1 pluralismo polarizzato: critiche e repliche’, in Rivista Italiana di Scienza Politica, Vol. 12, No. 1, 1984.

3 cf. Predieri, A., ‘Mediazione e indirizzo nel parlamento italiano’, Rivista Italiana di Scienza Politica, 1975, pp. 407–43. Predieri, A. and Cazzola, F., ‘Consenso e opposizione nel parlamento italiano’, Rivista Italiana di Scienza Politica, Vol. 2, No. 1, 1972, pp. 7196, have calculated that for each of the first five legislatures of the Republic the average of the PCI voting with the majority went from a minimum of 62 per cent (in the first legislature) to a maximum of 88 per cent (in the third). Predictably, it was higher for laws having narrower scope (those which were in the interest of groups, categories or localities), and lower for laws of national interest.

4 cf. Bagnasco, A. Re italie, Bologna, I1 Mulino, 1997 and C. Trigilia, Grandi Partiti e piccole Imprese, Bologna, I1 Mulino, 1986.

5 A recent interview given by the then Minister of the Interior (and of Police), Taviani, relates the pressures by the American Ambassador Luce to induce the government to outlaw the PCI, given new evidence of their being financed by the USSR. Taviani objected that such a measure would have caused enormous and unnecessary trouble and the proposal was not pursued. As for the evidence of Soviet funds, Taviani commented that the government already knew everything about that, and the PCI, on its side, knew everything about Italian public industry financing the DC, and it was more convenient to everybody not to raise scandals at all. (M. Caprara, Lavoro riservato, Milan, Feltrinelli, 1997, pp. 1.56 ff.)

6 See note 4 above.

7 cf. Bellucci, Paolo, ‘Classi, identità politiche e interessi’, in Corbetta et al, A Domanda Risponde, Bologna, 11 Mulino, 1997, pp. 261316.

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Opposition in Italy

  • Alessandro Pizzorno

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